Poppe: 2017 session had many accomplishments, disappointments

Published 8:46 am Saturday, May 27, 2017

While the end of the regular session and the first days of the special session didn’t carry the level of compromise for which I was hoping, a state budget has been sent to Gov. Mark Dayton. The Legislature also succeeded in completing a healthy bonding bill and a substantial tax cut package.

Although promises were made to the contrary, this session and its extension were marked by a disregard for transparency and public input from the Republican majority.  In the end, budget bills have now been completed and sent to the Governor, who will have some time to consider the bills and provide the necessary scrutiny to make sure the budget balances.

Within the regular session, we passed an Agriculture Finance bill funding good food access program, the Farm Advocates program, and supporting a noxious weed coordinator position within the Dept of Ag.  The Dept of Ag, Ag Utilization Research Institute, the Board of Animal Health, and the Center for Rural Development all received increased funding.

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The Public Safety Finance bill funds public defenders and the public court system.

The E-12 Finance bill increases the funding for Minnesota’s public schools at the two percent formula increase, but also contains controversial policy language.

In special session, we passed the tax bill which includes property tax cuts that will have a positive impact on our small businesses and the Ag2School provision, which provides a permanent credit on agricultural land that is equal to 40 percent of the property’s tax attributable to school district debt levies. This credit is targeted to reduce farmers’ property tax burdens and will make it easier for schools to provide quality facilities for their students.

We also passed the state government finance bill which funds state agencies, ensuring no deep cuts to the services from which Minnesotans benefit.

Several bills I carried were passed as part of larger legislation, including loan forgiveness for agriculture education teachers, $1.7 million in bonding for the Cedar River Watershed District, and $250,000 to establish a pilot project for community design in Greater Minnesota. The project identifies opportunities for rural development and helps implement economically and environmentally sensitive projects that increase community quality of life.

The largest and most impactful bill not likely to make it through the process is the pension bill. In the special session it was paired with language which preempts cities from making local wage and benefit decisions.  The Governor has vowed to veto the preemption bill. This means the fix we worked hard to secure for the City of Austin is not likely to happen. This is a major disappointment and illustrates what end-of-session political games can result in.

The Governor has three days to sign bills passed during the regular session once they’re presented and 14 days to sign bills passed during the special session.

You can reach me by phone at 651-296-4193, by mail at 291 State Office Building, 100 Martin Luther King Blvd., St. Paul, MN 55155, or via email rep.jeanne.poppe@house.mn.